From outhouse, to penthouse, and back to the outhouse. So has been the journey of Chase Headley the past three years. Is he a borderline elite hitter, a middling option, or someone to avoid in 2014?
After his All-Star season in 2012, this is what I wrote about Headley.
“My boy Chase Headley, taken in the 20th round, was fantabulistic (.286-31-115-95-17). Given his draft day cost, he was one of the 10 best players in fantasy baseball this year.”
What did I write about Headley coming into the 2013 season? Here you go.
“Here’s a definitive statement: Headley will not replicate his homer, RBI or runs scored marks in 2013… Headley could end the year as a top-10 third baseman but your setting yourself up for major disappointment if you are thinking a top-5 finish is in the cards.”
So Headley went from being undervalued, to overvalued from 2012 to 2013. Where will he be in 2014?
Headley hit .250 last season. That was his lowest mark since an eight game cup of coffee in 2007. His BABIP was down .016 points, but a .319 mark is still solid. He actually had a 22.6 percent line drive rate, a five year high, so he pretty much hit the ball as he did in 2012. The results just weren’t there. Why? Let’s dig further.
Headley had a 1.47 GB/FB ratio. The mark was 1.42 and 1.51 the previous two seasons. Same yet again.
Headley had an 11.2 percent walk rate. His career mark is 10.4.
Headley had a 23.7 percent K-rate. His career mark is 22.6
More of the same.
He had a .347 OBP. His career rate is .350.
He had a .400 SLG. His career rate is .415.
More of the same.
So before I go any further let me just say this. The hitter that Headley was in 2013 more closely resembles the the hitter he has always been rather than matching his out of nowhere, breakout 2012 effort.
Maybe it’s time we just face facts with Headley. Here is what we know.
Headley is a career .269 hitter who has never hit .290 in a season.
Headley has one season in his career with more than 13 homers (more on that in a moment).
Headley gets on base at a nice clip but he just doesn’t have a power bat.
Headley hit 31 homers in 2012. I told everyone not to expect a repeat. In fact, I wrote this prior to the start of the 2013 season.
“There is also no way that any rational person can think he will repeat that total in 2013… Headley will have a hard time hitting 20 homers. Why? Lost amidst all the homers is the fact that he was about to more than double his previous career best homer total despite a career low fly ball rate of 32.1 percent. In fact, his fly ball rate has gone down each of the past three years (38.3, 36.0, 32.3 and 32.1 percent). Doom is in the forecast here. ”
So what happened in 2013? Headley continued his downward fly ball trend making it four years in a row that the number has regressed (his 2013 mark was 31.3 percent). Moreover, he hasn’t been a league average fly ball bat since 2009. He simply doesn’t lift the ball enough to be a big homer bat, and that has nothing to do with Petco Park. What did I say about his HR/F ratio prior to 2013? I made a definitive statement that was ridiculed by some.
“I’m going to predict that Headley follows a similar path with his his HR/F ratio, that it will likely be cut in half in 2013 from his 2012 level.”
2012: 21.4 percent HR/F
2013: 10.9 percent HR/F
OK, so I missed by a few tenths.
Look, I’m just gonna say it. I was right about Headley. It’s obvious. It should also be obvious that there is room for some improvement in 2014 – notice I wrote “some.” His average could easily surpass his .269 career mark. I’ll give you that. His steal total is likely to improve as he stole eight bases last year, literally half of the 16 he averaged from 2010-12. I’ll give you that. I’ll also posit that he has a fair shot to knock in more than 50 runs and that his total of 59 runs scored will be up (injuries did limit him to 141 games and 520 at-bats). I will not grant that the homers will come back. He’ll never hit 31 homers again.
Headley should be drafted in mixed leagues as a corner infield option. There’s a chance he could be dealt, with arbitration he’s about to start getting expensive, an a move to a new ball yard certainly would improve his outlook, slightly. He’s someone you can get cheap, and given that fact he’s worth adding to many a fantasy roster in 2014.
By Ray Flowers